DEAR MR. VAN DE VELDE: Allow me to be among the first to publicly welcome you to Utah State and to congratulate you on the new job. So, you're going to be the Aggies' new athletic director. I hope you know what you're doing.

I should tell you that you've got a tough act to follow - but only if your goal is to alienate an entire community. The last guy basically got run out of town on a rail. Some people say he stepped on a few toes; actually, he cut them off. At the ankle. Anyway, it just goes to show that if you kick people around long enough, eventually they'll kick back, even if you're winning ballgames.Allow me to offer you 20 tips on How to Get Along in Logan, since I noticed you're from Missouri, which I suppose means you're from out of town (unless Missouri is another one of those gas stops in southern Utah I never heard of). I think you'll find the following tips helpful and to the point, and you're welcome.

1 - Don't act like a jerk. Does this ring a Bell? If your friends outnumber your lawsuits, you're ahead of the last guy.

2 - Treat employees like people, not the flavor of the month. Look, all you've got to do is continue the progress under way at USU while treating people right, and, bingo, they name a building after you. Easy.

3 - Memorize these names: Wayne Estes (tragic basketball legend), Bruce Snyder (football coach), E.L. Dick Romney (stadium's namesake, legendary coach), Merlin Olsen (bearded car salesman).

4 - If the Aggies give you a used, powder blue Cadillac, dump it. Pronto. Get a pickup.

5 - The $50 donor is your real strength. It's the million-dollar donors you've got to worry about. Next thing you know they're in the huddle calling plays.

6 - The last guy grumbled about $50 donors who wanted $5,000 of his time. Give it to them.

7 - Never drive Sardine Canyon except between the months of July and August. If you're ever tempted to take the canyon in the winter, keep one thing in mind: Donner Party.

8 - When you sign a coach to a contract at USU, make sure it includes a painful buyout clause or some significant penalty for leaving early to take employment elsewhere, such as life in front of a firing squad. Can you say stepping stone?

9 - Next time you're in a rotten mood and you think you've just got to fire someone to make yourself feel better, get an ice cream in the nutrition science building instead. Or go tubing on Old Main hill. Or lay out on the quad in late May to soak up the sun and watch the, um, scenery. Let off some steam; stop and smell the pine cones.

10 - Regarding the policy for turning in a receipt for a business expense: only once, please.

11 - Four words: Forget the WAC already. The Aggies have been obsessing on getting into the Western Athletic Conference for about three decades. So did your predecessor, old what's-his-name, who, by the way, went to San Jose State, a WAC school, and almost immediately half the schools defected. It was just a coincidence. I think.

12 - They're not a bunch of rubes in Logan. You don't have to conduct wholesale firings. Some employees have been around as long as Old Main, but they know what they're doing. By the way, never offer an employee's job to someone else - while the employee still holds the job.

13 - Go ahead and make $220 beer runs to Franklin; feel free to take the in-laws out to dinner. Just don't bill the school for it.

14 - If you need a coach, call Moscow - Idaho, that is.

15 - If you do something stupid, don't blame it on "zeal." Jails are filled with guys who had zeal.

16 - Don't keep telling people that your primary job is to raise money when you keep spending it on posh hotels and restaurants and tickets to the Opry. The A.D. job is not a license to live like Prince Charles. Bills for $1,000 in "miscellaneous" expenses for a jaunt to Reno are bound to raise a few eyebrows. Oh, and consider this a law: You can't claim $6,000 for "working meals" unless you're Julia Child.

17 - Don't claim a balanced budget until athletics starts paying its way.

18 - Don't take credit for every touchdown or 3-point shot while blaming the penalties on others - if you know what I mean.

19 - You're allowed to solicit businesses for donations; just don't blacklist them when they don't want to contribute.

20 - Tell the truth. Not when it's convenient. Always.